Brussels is home to Belgian commerce and industry and the European Union. It is also the location of the Belgian royal family, culture-rich libraries and museums, elegant and quirky shopping districts and magnificent cathedrals. The capital of bilingual Belgium, it offers ready train access to other European cities: those of the Flemish-speaking west such as Bruges, and eastern, French-speaking cities like Liege. There are countless tourist attractions and things to do in Brussels including art, architecture, and history. Other guests focus on comics, the 1958 World's Fair and of course, Mannekin Pis.
The Grand Place is Brussels' main square, one of the best-preserved in Europe. It was founded in the 11th century, gained a town hall at the opening of the 15th century and through centuries of politics and business acquired further buildings of elegant design. The town hall, built to be the envy of nearby Bruges, contains a capsule of Brussels history in the murals along the Escalier d'Honneur.
Accessible by tram from the city center, the Atomium rises above the city and resembles an atomic structure. It is made of aluminum and steel and was erected for the 1958 Brussels World's Fair. Visitors can enjoy the surrounding park and enter several of the structure's spheres by escalator, stairs, and an elevator. Inside are exhibits and a sky-high restaurant with a panoramic view.
Belgium celebrated its 50th anniversary in 1880 and commissioned the creation of Parc du Conquantenaire to commemorate the event. A triumpha arch joined the Palais du Cinquantenaire's two buildings 25 years later. Visit the Royal Art and History Museum and view a world-class collection of tapestries, or wander through the Belgian Army Museum and Museum of Military History for historical exhibits and an overview of military development over time.
The royal palace and its surrounding park present a beautiful, peaceful place to explore and monuments representing Belgian history to examine. It's the residence of the royal family, but from late July to the beginning of September, the palace traditionally opens a few special rooms to the public. The Mirror Room is a particular favorite, with a piece called "Heaven of Delight" constructed on the ceiling out of thousands of beetles.
Visit this restored mid-19th-century arcade for the architecture, the shops, or both. Originally designed to upgrade the local shopping experience and bring it indoors, the lengthy corridors dedicated to the king and queen contain stores, cafes, and restaurants. Over the years, the building has served as a gathering place for the literary and artistic spheres, a hangout for journalists, and a destination for theatergoers.
Created just before the 1958 Brussels World's Fair, this park offers a scenic view of the central city. Located between the Place Royale and the Place d'Albertine, Mont des Arts offers a nice place to rest or walk around before resuming urban exploration. The nearby Bibliotheque Albert I, with museums and an extensive manuscript collection, is joined by the imposing Palais de la Dynastie and Palais de Congres.
The church's history dates back to early 1300, though the location was in use as a guild gathering place for a century before. The present building is from the 15th century when this richly decorated late Gothic structure at the historic center of Brussels drew the nobility and wealthy citizens of the city. If featured two magnificent Baroque chapels, its claim to fame. The Thurn and Taxis family, who established the first international postal service in 1516, contributed significantly to the building of the chapels and had a residence nearby.
Begun in 1905 to mark Belgium's 75th anniversary, King Leopold II's masterpiece is the fifth largest church in the world. A mix of art deco and other influences, it was completed in 1970. Inside is an excellent collection of art and an exhibit on the history of the cathedral. From the cupola, visitors can use rented binoculars to view the countryside as far as Antwerp.
As was the case for many European cathedrals, construction of this Gothic-style church began in 1225 but was only completed in the 15th century. In addition to the architecture and the church's artwork, the stained glass windows are a popular attraction. Tuesday evenings during July and August, the cathedral is the site of concerts involving the church's three organs, and other musical events.
This little boy is much more than a whimsical statue and Brussels' best-known landmark. His history dates back to 1388 or earlier, though the statue itself is from 1619. Mannekin Pis has been stolen and returned several times over the ages; on major holidays and festival days, locals often dress him for the occasion. Ask a Belgian the "true" story of the cheeky boy relieving himself, and you will hear many versions. He could be a little fireman or depict a child who couldn't hold it in during a Brussels procession. This city is always full of surprises!